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Lemon Thumbprint Tartlets

October 30, 2009

These are a great alternative to my Meyer Lemon Tartlets when you are short on time, or simply want a different look.  Once again it was inspired by Martha (I sure have been on a Martha kick recently thanks to her solid baking recipes) using her recipe for Lemon Tassies with a slight modification to double the amount of crust.   Since they are made in a mini muffin tin and you don’t have to roll any dough out, they can be made fairly quickly.  Also, they last for 3 days and I thought were at their best on the 2nd day.   Small bites perfect for a cocktail party.

Lemon Thumbprint Tartlets


For the Candied Lemon Zest:
1 lemons, well scrubbed
1 cup sugar, plus more for rolling
1/2 cup cool water

For the Crusts:
10 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 cups all-purpose flour
6 tablespoons sugar
2 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
Pinch of salt

For the Filling:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
3 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


  1. For candied lemon zest: Remove zest from lemons with a vegetable peeler, keeping pieces long. Remove white pith using a paring knife, and finely julienne using a very sharp knife. Place julienned zest in a small bowl; cover with boiling water. Let stand for 30 minutes; drain.
  2. Bring 1 cup sugar and the cool water to a boil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. When sugar is completely dissolved, add julienned zest, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand overnight. Remove zest, and drain on wire rack. Cut each piece in half. Roll in sugar. Dry on wire rack. Store zest in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.
  3. Make the crust: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees with rack in upper third. Lightly butter a 24-cup mini-muffin pan; set aside. In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine the flour and butter. Pulse until mixture is the consistency of fine crumbs. Add the sugar, egg yolk, vanilla, lemon zest, and salt. Process until evenly incorporated and smooth; do not overprocess.
  4. Divide the dough into quarters. Divide each quarter into 6 pieces. Shape into balls. Place each ball in a muffin cup; press down in the centers so that the dough fits the cups snugly. Use a small tart tamper or other tool with a flat round end, and use it to ensure the bottom is flat and a nice cup is formed. Set muffin pan on a baking sheet.
  5. Bake until lightly browned all over and slightly darker at the edges, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer baking sheet with muffin pan to a wire rack to cool.
  6. Make the filling: In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat cream cheese, sugar, egg, lemon zest, lemon juice, and vanilla until completely smooth. Using a 1/4-ounce ice cream scoop, fill the cooled crusts. Bake until filling is set and just beginning to color at the edges, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer muffin pan to a wire rack. Garnish with candied lemon peel. Let cool completely before serving. The tartlets may be stored in an airtight container, refrigerated, for up to 3 days.
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